Intoxicated drivers cause mayhem on the roads, which is why there are strict laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and why penalties are so severe. Nevertheless, every day people make the reckless and criminal decision to get behind the wheel while drunk or high.
If the driver of a commercial vehicle like a large truck is impaired, the potential for a fatal accident is magnified greatly. If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving truck accident in Memphis, you deserve full compensation for the driver’s actions.
The law requires you to file a lawsuit within one year of the wreck, so contact a local truck accident attorney right away, even if you are still in the hospital. The Reaves Law Firm could begin putting together a strong case, increasing your chances of receiving appropriate compensation for your suffering.
Handling a truck safely requires significant focus and skill as their large size makes trucks inherently dangerous to the occupants of smaller vehicles nearby. Consequently, the law imposes higher standards on commercial drivers than on drivers of passenger vehicles.
Although most states, including Tennessee, establish .08 as the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers, a commercial driver’s BAC cannot legally exceed .04. Conviction on a first offense could lead to a one-year suspension of the trucker’s Commercial Driver’s License, and a second offense could permanently disqualify the driver from operating commercial vehicles.
Although the BAC limits specifically concern alcohol consumption, operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence of drugs, even prescription medication, violates state law and federal safety rules. Commercial drivers work long hours and might turn to stimulants and other drugs to help keep them awake. A Memphis attorney could seek the results of any chemical tests a hospital or law enforcement personnel administered to determine whether drugs or alcohol had a role in the truck crash.
If a trucker drives while impaired by drugs or alcohol, they are responsible for any harm this choice causes. Likewise, the trucker’s employer might argue that driving while impaired is against company policy and claim that the driver alone must pay for the damage their illegal behavior caused. In addition, many commercial drivers are independent contractors, and trucking companies often deny responsibility for the actions of the contractors they hire.
However, there could be ways for a savvy Memphis accident attorney to hold a transport company liable for the actions of an impaired trucker. Trucking companies must buy insurance policies with very high coverage limits, so it is always worthwhile to look for ways in which they failed to act prudently.
For example, if the company imposed an unreasonable delivery schedule and the trucker took drugs to stay awake, the company might bear responsibility. Similarly, if the company hired the semi-truck driver knowing that they had a record of substance abuse, or if they failed to uncover a record a substance abuse, the company might be liable for negligent hiring.
In any vehicle accident case, an injured person could claim their medical costs, lost income, and compensation for their pain and suffering. In some egregious cases, plaintiffs could claim punitive damages. Punitive damages are not compensation for an injured person’s losses. They are sums of money a responsible party must pay as punishment for outrageous behavior that caused harm to someone else.
According to Tennessee Code Annotated §29-39-104, punitive damages are available only when the conduct that caused the injury was fraudulent, intentional, malicious, or reckless. The person seeking the damages must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the behavior warrants punitive damages. An experienced Memphis lawyer could present evidence of the driver’s impairment and violation of well-known rules barring substance use by commercial drivers to prove their recklessness in causing the collision.
In most cases, punitive damages cannot exceed two times the amount of the compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever amount is greater. Even if a jury awards a larger amount, an injured person could collect no more than the cap. However, if the responsible party was driving drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs, this cap does not apply.
If a commercial driver causes a drunk driving truck accident in Memphis and someone is injured, the insurance companies for the driver and the trucking company often hope to settle the case quickly. They might come to you dangling a check within just a few days of the accident.
Although the offer might seem big enough, it almost certainly is not. Do not settle for less than your case is worth. Contact the Reaves Law Firm right away.